Business Internships and the Undergraduate Experience

Many students complete internships during their college experience, often as a required component of their program. Internships are widely recognized as one of many high-impact practices consisting of active learning opportunities that help engage students both in and outside of the classroom, and have been historically linked to numerous benefits.

This research note explores the relationship between having an internship and learning outcomes for business students, and the effect that the quality of one’s internship has on these outcomes using data from the Skyfactor Benchworks Undergraduate Business Exit Assessment of over 10,000 graduating business students from over 30 colleges in the United States.

Internships: Key Questions

  1. How many business students report having an internship?
  2. How does internship participation relate to the business student experience?
  3. How does internship satisfaction relate to the business student experience?

Key Points

  • Students with internships tend to have higher cumulative GPAs than students without internships; however, just having an internship does not affect learning outcomes or program satisfaction.
  • Students who are satisfied with the experience they gain from their internship have higher GPAs, perform better on learning outcomes, and show higher satisfaction with their program.

Internships make a strong impact on the persona growth of the students who participate.

About the Data

The data used in this research note is from the 2016-2017 Benchworks Undergraduate Business Exit Assessment. This exit assessment provides administrators with valuable insight into the student experience and important outcomes from that experience. Results can be effectively utilized to focus attention on both strengths and areas in need of improvement. The data in this research note are from 10,116 graduating business students from 232 institutions in the United States.

Overall, approximately 60% of business students participate in an internship at some point during the course of their enrollment. While simply having an internship is not strongly related to their broader undergraduate business program experience, the experiences one gets out of completing an internship appears to be. Students who reported high satisfied with their internship experience were more likely to report higher cumulative GPAs, were more likely to report learning across a wide variety of measures, and were more likely to report high satisfaction with their overall business program experience than those students who were moderately or not at all satisfied with their internship.